Ecological literacy and beyond: Problem-based learning for future professionals
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Ecological science contributes to solving a broad range of environmental problems. However, lack of ecological literacy in practice often limits application of this knowledge. In this paper, we highlight a critical but often overlooked demand on ecological literacy: to enable professionals of various careers to apply scientific knowledge when faced with environmental problems. Current university courses on ecology often fail to persuade students that ecological science provides important tools for environmental problem solving. We propose problem-based learning to improve the understanding of ecological science and its usefulness for real-world environmental issues that professionals in careers as diverse as engineering, public health, architecture, social sciences, or management will address. Courses should set clear learning objectives for cognitive skills they expect students to acquire. Thus, professionals in different fields will be enabled to improve environmental decision-making processes and to participate effectively in multidisciplinary work groups charged with tackling environmental issues.
KeywordsProblem-based learning Teaching ecology Conceptual underpinnings Interdisciplinary work
This paper was produced as part of a workshop on teaching methods in ecology that was held in Freising, Germany, in August 2013. The workshop was funded by grant 54417975 of the German Academic Research Council (DAAD) “TUMBRA: A network for using ecological analysis to deepen our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and sustainable land use” to the Technische Universität München and its partner universities UFRGS Porto Alegre, UFRN Natal and UNICAMP Campinas in Brazil. TML, VDP, PIP, GG and CRF received support from CNPq, Brazil.
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